Oak & Front Wine Bar

Bryan Bogue and Tonya Wade stand outside of Front & Oak in downtown Washington Thursday, Dec. 10. Wade’s brother, Marc Wade, is also a partner in the wine tasting business.

More than 25 years after graduating from St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, Tonya Wade, Marc Wade and Bryan Bogue are opening Oak & Front Wine Bar and Tasting Room in March at 120 Front St., Suite 201, Washington.

Tonya Wade and Bogue have owned the entire structure, the mid-19th century August Roettger building, since fall 2018. Its 5,000 square feet will include an art gallery alongside indoor seating, patio dining and standing room for wine drinkers. Since April, the third floor of the building has been used as a vacation rental that has been booked almost every weekend, Tonya Wade said.

Currently, the main floor is filled with piles of loose bricks, wires and concrete. With three more months of construction work to go, it’s in its initial stages, but Tonya Wade said it is soon going to offer wine by the glass and bottle as well as a charcuterie, dessert and a small selection of beers and mixed drinks.

“Through various ups and downs in life, we have shared many a glass of wine together,“ she said, as Bogue nodded with an intermittent “yup” or two. “One of those glasses of wine was earlier this year when Bryan asked what I would feel about opening a wine bar.”

The bar will offer a global selection of wines to “fill a niche,” Bogue said, as there are many nearby bars that specialize in local products.

“One of the things about this area is we all know it’s settled by a lot of Germans who were winemakers and things like that,” Tonya Wade said. “It has a very rich wine culture here, but it’s all based upon the old-world wine making, and so we felt like there was a need for that here in Washington.”

Oak & Front will also be a space for people to go after eating out at a restaurant, she said, or to have book club meetings and other gatherings. She wants it to ingratiate itself into the community.

“With all the new residences going into downtown, what brings people into those residences?” she said. “It’s having good amenities to walk to.”

After accounting for construction costs, they spent about $140,000 to $150,000 to open the wine bar, she said. The three-bedroom vacation rental cost about $100,000, and total startup costs for the building were well into “six figures,” she said, calling it their “passion project” well worth the money.

About $31,500 of that went into renovating a historic balcony and windows on the third floor using the Downtown Washington Inc. low-interest loan program. The rest was a combination of Bank of Washington loans and personal investment.

Bogue and Tonya Wade, both 45, already own other businesses. Bogue owns Elite Survival Systems locally, which makes tactical equipment and gear for law enforcement officers. Tonya Wade owns Mailers Haven in California, which is a marketing services company for mailers, printers and ad agencies. Marc Wade, 43, is a radiologist in Columbia, his sister said.

Tonya Wade and Bogue originally purchased the Front Street building with Washington native Tony Goekenbach, but Bogue bought Goekenbach’s portion of the business earlier this year, Tonya Wade said.

“Obviously, opening a business during COVID is the absolute worst idea ever, and it’s caused so many timelines to change,” she said.

Bogue continued, “There are supply issues, just how many different people between us and the workers having been quarantined every time we turn around, which is necessary but makes things a little more complicated this year than normal.”

As a result of three decades of friendship, the two bounced off each other as they spoke, and Tonya Wade concluded, “We’re lucky that we own the building, so it’s not as stressful as if we were paying rent every month.”

As March comes, the trio will be looking to hire five to seven workers. They can be reached on their Facebook page or website, oakandfront.com.